Throughout your journey as an account manager there will be many occasions where you will need to be assertive. These could include:
- Handling conflict (with clients, internal teams or suppliers).
- Pitching and presenting.
- Asking for a promotion or salary increase.
- Standing up for your ideas.
- Being heard in meetings.
- Reaching solutions.
- Addressing unfair situations.
- Saying "no" when you need to.
Assertiveness is a powerful tool to have in your toolbox, so you need to be careful how, and when, you wield its power.
Imagine an account manager's personality being weighed on a set of scales. On one side of the scales there are good and necessary traits such as assertiveness, confidence, determination and drive. On the other side of the scales are empathy and emotional intelligence.
Assertiveness can often come across as aggressive, self-serving and ego-driven, so it needs to be offset with empathy ("the identification with, or experiencing of, the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another"*) and emotional intelligence ("skill in perceiving, understanding, and managing emotions and feelings"*).
Well-balanced assertiveness conveys that your opinions and ideas are just as valuable or important as anybody else's, and that they are not more valuable or important than anybody else's. This is an important key to keeping the balance.
Being assertive does not come easily for some people, but it's a skill that can (and must) be learned. The best way to start is to have a strong belief in the value that you bring, the solution that you are offering, or what is or is not fair. Before you exercise your assertiveness, do an empathy-check on the person or group that you are speaking to, and then proceed with a good helping of emotional intelligence!
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